I landed in Budapest bleary eyed and feeling the exhaustion down to my bones. I’m sure a younger version of myself would have been able to run off of adrenaline, but my 31 year old body needs more than 10 hours of sleep within a 3 day timeframe in order to function properly.
I was nervous my semi-delayed brain functioning and the language barrier would trip me up in customs. I was shockingly surprised when I handed over my passport to a man who didn’t look at me or ask any questions, just gave me a newly coveted passport stamp and handed the book back, while continuing a conversation with his coworker the entire time.
It was all too easy.
I found the shuttle I had booked to take me to the hotel and got on board. We drove through the outskirts of the city while I listened to the other eight people in the van speaking in tongues that were foreign to me, likely about how this blonde girl doesn’t have a clue what they are saying.
I was quite unstressed. Maybe because I was so tired I didn’t have the physical energy for the usual anxiety that the unknown typically brings. Maybe because I’m a freak of nature and actually get a weird sense of peace being on the road and exploring someplace new.
When we hit my hotel, I looked up in amazement, shocked that this was my home for the next week.
It was called the New York Palace. I had actually gotten an amazing deal on it so wasn’t paying an arm and a leg to stay there. I knew I’d come a long way from my days at staying in hostels when the other people in the car said, “Whooooaaaah” and the doorman came to assist me out of the car as if my legs couldn’t manage to step out of the van and grabbed my bags for me.
Normally I’m all for the fact that I don’t need excess or craziness. Give me an average hotel and I would be grateful. But I was tired and knew I could very easily get used to this.
As he escorted me through the door, probably wondering what kind of ruse I had pulled to stay at a hotel this nice as I clearly did not match the protocol for their “typical client,” I found it hard to keep my cool and believe that I was supposed to be there.
The hotel was immaculate. And accurately named “palace” as it seemed to fit every detail.
I went to check in, and the man apologized for not having my room ready. I looked at him and said, “Well I’m here about five hours early, so I didn’t really expect it to be.” He got me all set up so that I could just grab my key once it was cleaned and suggested I could spend the remaining hours in the spa. I thanked him and let him know I was going to explore the city instead.
I wandered to the Great Market Hall which I figured would be a great activity since I could look around and not need to use a ton of my brain function. I walked through stalls of paprika, (which Hungarians are apparently known for), sausages and cheeses, scarves, chess boards, and lace. It was a random assortment of everything you would hope for in a market, and a great way to kill a few hours.
I’m no stranger to trying new things out, so since I was starving I pushed my way through the crowds to the nearest booth selling langos. I had been jealously eyeing people at the market eating this delicious looking food.
Langos is essentially a fried bread (kind of like a funnel cake, but more savory) topped with sour cream and cheese. So essentially every food that will give me a heart attack and simultaneously every food I really want to eat all of the time. Pair that with some wine and I would have been golden.
I added some veggies to the top so that I hopefully wouldn’t die on my first day in Budapest of a heart attack, and as I carved away at it with my fork and knife, I knew I was going to love this place.
Some man ran up to me and pointed at my plate and said, “What is this?” with a thick accent.
I responded, “Langos,” like I had known of it long before five minutes prior to this encounter, and pointed to the direction of the stand I got it. He smiled and gave me a thumbs up and went running off that direction.
Full of fried cheesy goodness, I set out to wander around in my stupor, sitting down by the Danube River and taking in the city.
I felt weirdly good about being here.
Sure I was tired and cranky and my body was screaming for a nap, but I knew it was going to be a wonderful trip, and I already felt comfortable in the city.
I wandered back to the hotel where they gave me my key to my new digs. I took in my room with the chandelier and the Roberto Cavalli toiletries and wondered to myself if there was a way I could manage to live here. While I’m not a classy lady, I could definitely get used to this caliber of living.
I crawled into bed to get some much needed shut eye so I would be ready to give Budapest my full attention, not only that evening, but for the next week of my life. I slipped easily to sleep dreaming about fancy hotels and fried bread and cheese.